Lessons from “A Teenager’s View on Social Media”

I recently came across this post A Teenager’s View on Social Media and it made me think about how quickly technology is changing and how far ahead (in what a different space) young people are. The post contains the personal views of an “actual teen” (his words), a 19 year-old student in the U.S. commenting on the apps teenagers use and don’t use. The young man admittedly writes (in his follow up post) that his views are based on personal opinion “to provide a different view based on [his] life in this ‘highly coveted’ age bracket.” I found his perspective interesting both as an educator and father for many reasons and have shared my observations below.

Meeting our students where they are

My first thought to the blog post was a question: How do we meet (communicate with) our students where they are? While I recognize that it is not considered “social media” (the author makes no reference to it in his post), email continues to be our school’s number one communication tool amongst staff (as it is in many universities and businesses today). We continue to use it to communicate with our students and get frustrated when they don’t respond for days. As a result, many of our faculty and residential staff have switched to texting our students and this is much more effective. Some have also started to “tweet” our students and continue to look for alternative methods for communicating.  Never-the-less, among our staff (me included), email is our mode of communication.

My second observation relates to the young man’s comments about Facebook, an “awkward family dinner party we can’t really leave,” he says, when referring to its waning popularity with teens. What does this say about the speed at which technology is changing if Facebook is already ‘on the outs’ with teenagers? At LCS we use Facebook to connect with our alumni and families to share details about upcoming events and life at the school. Our online community continues to grow and, so far, it is an effective way of staying connected to each other and our alumni “from cradle to grave.” How long before this changes?

Social-Media-Trends

My third observation relates to his comments around the popularity of a newer app called Yik Yak. As a school, we do have experience with Yik Yak. This year we discovered some students using Yik Yak to spread hateful messages because of its ability to post anonymously. Once alerted, we encouraged staff to download Yik Yak to their smartphones and let our students know that we were also using it. Knowing their audience had changed, an anonymous response came back: “who took the fun out of Yik Yak?”  While the availability of apps like Yik Yak elicited poor decision making from some of our students, it also opened up the opportunity to share an important lesson about the appropriate use of technology—there is a teachable moment everyday. (Through the process, we also learned about having a “geo-fence” put around the school to block Yik Yak from working).

My final observation includes the following, while Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and Twitter are all familiar tools to me, the apps mentioned at the bottom of his post are, for the most part, unknown. If this is what our students are in to, how do we share their enthusiasm and excitement? More importantly, how do we communicate with our students?

Learning through relationships is a two-way street

I suppose the answer is clear, ‘learning through relationships’ is a two-way street. At LCS, we have the opportunity to create space for our students to share what they know and are excited about, both inside and outside of the classroom. Enrichment periods like Grove Time are a perfect example. Imagine a session led by our students on social media trends, their relevance and uses? Would this be popular for students to lead? As staff, would we be courageous enough to attend? It is sometimes difficult, as an adult, to admit. Although, I can say from being a parent that I learn from my 13 year-old son on a daily basis how to maximize the use of my iPhone. We have great students at LCS. I think they would be excited to lead a digital/social media workshop for teachers and we could learn so much from them.

The bottom line is that learning never stops. We are all lifelong learners. Seeing teaching go both ways, between students and teachers and teachers and students, is exciting. As educators, it can continue to open ourselves up to meeting students ‘where they are’ not only in learning, but with an understanding of the tools they are excited about using, perhaps we can engage them in learning at an even deeper level.

Learning how to be a better learner

As educators we are always looking for quality feedback from our students and parents on their learning experience. What are the big “take aways” that our graduates carry forward with them as they pursue new endeavours, whether it is a gap year involving travel and service or a competitive program at university or college?

Coming off the heels of our last post on the value and benefits of reading, I was so pleased to read the following words by Jesse Sarkis ’13, now in his second year as a photography student at Ryerson University in Toronto. He describes some of the “big take aways” related to his learning experiences in Advanced Placement (AP) and other English classes at Lakefield College School.  His words reflect well the confident, curious and critical thinker that he is. They are also beautifully aligned with the key 21st Century Learning goals we strive to meet as a school. Great feedback for us, and a positive indicator that we are on the right track.

JesseSarkis_LCS_Grad_IM003940
Jesse Sarkis ’13 (fourth from left) with his peers in his final year at Lakefield College School

From Jesse Sarkis ’13

As a student at Lakefield College School, English class was one of my favourites. Reading and writing helped me to be a stronger critical thinker, to be more empathetic and to be both a better writer and speaker.

Thanks in no small part to my English classes at LCS, I submitted a successful letter of application and essay to a competitive university program and was accepted.

Despite loving English as a subject, I never realized just how much my classes were teaching me at the time. In university, my program’s classes are primarily technical and require little writing, but the benefits of being able to express through writing what I am doing conceptually is invaluable: regarding my work I am more confident, clear and precise.

When I started reading academic and theoretical books to supplement my technical classes in school, it was easy for me to switch back into ‘active reader’ mode and take to the books with a pencil, organizing the information I needed to better understand and think critically about its ideas. I wasn’t daunted – as many of my classmates were – by writing the two art history papers assigned in first year. I wasn’t worried about how I would ‘do.’ Instead, I was excited to do the research because I was confident in my skills and judgement thanks to Mr. McGowan’s Writer’s Craft class and Ms. Brown’s Grade 11 AP Language and Grade 12 AP Literature classes.

They taught me processes to effectively read, research and communicate. They taught me to love academic reading, researching and writing, and to be unafraid of any text no matter how complicated, poorly written, or dense.

Learning about literature can help a reader with any kind of text. As a reader I appreciate writing not only for what is expressed within it, but how it is expressed. AP Preparatory English classes helped me understand what I liked about the ‘how.’ Our rhetorical analysis of speeches and essays in class was especially helpful. So were our timed essay assignments designed to prepare us for the AP exams.

Even though, in class, I often found the close readings, Harkness table discussions, or ‘reading-alouds’ tedious and frustrating, what they taught me went beyond the texts and skills we were immediately focusing on. I remember Mr. McGowan telling me after Grade 12 Writer’s Craft class one day, after I had been particularly frustrated, that being dissatisfied with your environment isn’t always a bad thing – that frustration can lead to positive changes if you examine and act upon it. He encouraged me to write a supplement to my final Writer’s Craft assignment (which contained angry and weak writing) on Socrates’ thoughts that the unexamined life was not worth living. Despite never finishing the piece, I considered the advice it had to offer a lot.

By becoming frustrated with the processes of learning and grading in class, and reflecting upon it, I learned how to be a better learner.

The bulk of my experiential learning experiences at LCS helped me, more than anything else, to become a more conscious person. Life is experiential learning. As a boarding and day school, LCS creates a positive community environment for healthy, active, social, and engaged living. This promotes a 24/7 learning experience that never stops and can be consciously tapped into whenever you wish – in mind, body, and spirit. This is what I learned from English classes at LCS: The medium and format of class is like many other things in life – it’s not perfect and it could create some frustrating expectations.Having an open approach to learning that is reflective and moves beyond format and content is valuable. Staying open to learning as a continuous or ‘lifelong’ process helps me to learn from everything that is happening in the classroom, not just the topic being discussed.

The Lakefield Educator’s Apprenticeship Program

Nourishing our teachers within an exemplary learning community

“Every year’s a LEAP year at Lakefield College School!”  It’s the expression a beaming Joe Bettencourt, Assistant Head: Academics, used last Wednesday at our program meeting as he shared the many successes of our newest initiative: the Lakefield Educator’s Apprenticeship Program (LEAP).

Coming out of a very successful pilot launch in 2013/14, LEAP is well into its second year with equally strong results. In addition to strengthening and advancing the 21st century learning experience for our boarding and day students, the purpose of LEAP is to support new teachers as they begin their professional career as educators. Through a competitive process attracting some of the best teacher graduates from across Ontario, four outstanding candidates are selected each year to participate in our program.

“One of the many traditions enjoyed by LCS graduates – leaping into Lake Katchewanooka immediately following their last high school exam. It’s a unique rite of passage, celebrating both the ending and beginning of an era, that provided a great metaphor and inspiration (in more ways then one) for the Lakefield Educator’s Apprenticeship Program (LEAP).”  ~Joe Bettencourt

Teaching Fellows contribute fresh talent, resources and support to our greater LCS faculty team who, in turn, provide mentorship and coaching as the new teachers explore their career paths. Inherent in this collaborative partnership are many professional learning moments that occur on both sides.

“Participating in the Lakefield Educator’s Apprenticeship Program offers a great opportunity for staff learning and professional development. It encourages a partnership – between Teaching Fellows and Mentors – that models the same type of learning we seek to encourage in our students: taking risks, being creative, learning how to collaborate and reflecting on our practice.”   ~ Joe Bettencourt

A professional leadership learning opportunity

The program offers a new learning opportunity for Lakefield College School faculty who seek to develop their professional leadership and coaching capacity. Teaching and learning alongside Teaching Fellows, our Teaching Mentors grow their professional practice while supporting the learning of our students through a team teaching approach. Joe describes these as “experiential professional leadership learning opportunities” that involve co-planning, co-facilitating and co-assessing learning. Every hour LCS Teaching Mentors invest in this program brings simultaneous dividends to our Teaching Fellows, our students, and the mentors themselves.

A unique program for teachers in Ontario

“LEAP is one more way LCS nourishes its people and distinguishes itself as an exemplary learning community,” says Joe, “there are no educational apprenticeships like it in Ontario.” Fully engaged in classes and co-curriculars, Teaching Fellows co-teach alongside their Teacher Mentors in a yearlong commitment. They gain a full year of continuous day-to-day professional experience with their students, while providing valuable support to the school. In many of the classes where they are involved, average student to teacher ratios are less than 10:1. Our students have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the benefits of the “two-teacher” model, which, during a 70-minute class, means more one-on-one time between students and teachers and dynamic class lessons shared between two individuals. They are important benefits of the program.


When asked about LEAP outcomes thus far, Joe is quick to say:

“I’m so pleased with how well the collaborative relationships are taking root. Our Teaching Fellows are forming a great professional teaching community amongst themselves and with the LCS faculty mentors they are partnered with. In fact, some of our Teaching Fellows last year had a hard time saying goodbye. They became an integral part of our community of students and teachers. Even after they had finished the program, some returned to campus to attend events like Fall Fair, to catch up on news and keep in touch. And our students and teachers feel the same way about them.”

We are proud to say that within the broader educational community, Lakefield College School is strengthening its reputation for providing a coveted pool of qualified and experienced young professionals for hire – many being hired by private boarding and day schools (including LCS). First, through our long-standing two year Assistant Head of House (residential life) program, and now through our very successful Lakefield Educator’s Apprenticeship Program.

 

 

What Great Boarding Schools Have in Common

Every day at LCS, we look for those things that inspire and energize us, teachers and students alike. The more we share and collaborate, the more motivated we become and the more we learn – together. We often describe the process as “learning through relationships,” a keystone to developing and strengthening habits of lifelong learning.

Head of Lakefield College School Struan Robertson chats with LCS students in the hallway
My favourite part of the day – catching up with our students in the hallway.

I recently came upon an article, written by two leaders in the private education sphere, highlighting the qualities and priorities that boarding schools like LCS, “built to last,” tend to share: 25 Factors Great Boarding Schools Have in Common. In it, the authors write:

“Great boarding schools persist over time because they appeal to families seeking an education of deep impact, focused not only on academic training, but also on the formation of good character, habits of lifelong learning, and active citizenship.”

The article lists so many qualities that resonate with the richness of learning experienced at LCS. Among others, ideas around experiential learning, building resilience through challenge, andgraduating students who are both ‘good and smart,’” are themes often discussed at our school.

As such, 25 Factors Great Boarding Schools Have in Common  provides an interesting basis for our own self-reflection as a school. Last week, I shared the article with the school’s Leadership Team asking them to identify the top 3 strengths and top 3 weaknesses for LCS. The results were very interesting. In the coming week, I will share the same questions with our faculty and school board. I believe it will be a great exercise – rich with insights and perspectives of our various members – that will continue to feed our processes as we improve and seek to fulfil our goal of being “Canada’s finest boarding school, preparing students best for life in the 21st century.”   ~ Our Way | More Intentionally Lakefield

I encourage you to read the article and determine for yourself the qualities you most value in a great boarding school education. I also hope that you will continue to follow LCS Learns, where we will share the stories of our students and staff, and that which inspires and motivates them.